Australian Open: Naomi Osaka seals consecutive grand slams

Japanese player saw off Petra Kvitova in three sets to add to her 2018 US Open title

Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates her victory against Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova during the women’s singles final of the Australian Open. Photo: William West/Getty Images

Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates her victory against Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova during the women’s singles final of the Australian Open. Photo: William West/Getty Images

 

This time the tears were of joy. Tennis already had a star in Naomi Osaka; now it has a superstar. After squandering three match points at 5-3 in the second set, the 21-year-old Japanese regrouped brilliantly to beat the Czech Petra Kvitova 7-6 (2) 5-7 6-4 to win a dramatic Australian Open final. Her second consecutive grand slam title ensures she will be the new world No 1 and on this evidence, she might stay there for some time.

Last September, Osaka was reduced to tears when the crowd booed after a controversial US Open final in which Serena Williams lost her cool. On Saturday, the tears flowed at the end of a high quality, seesaw final, in which she lost her way and then found it again, her character coming through when she needed it most. As Kvitova’s final forehand return flew wide, Osaka fell to her haunches, her head in her hands.

Osaka was emotional after sealing victory. Photo: Aly Song/Reuters
Osaka was emotional after sealing victory. Photo: Aly Song/Reuters

She is the first woman to follow her first grand slam title by immediately winning the next one since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 and the first since Serena in 2015 to win two slams in a row.

Kvitova, in her first grand slam final since she suffered an horrific knife attack in her own home in December 2016, which left her requiring extensive surgery to save her left hand, had hoped to complete a fairytale comeback by lifting the title, a win which would have given her the No 1 spot.

And it was a tense affair throughout, both women hammering the ball from the baseline and rushing their opponent from the first strike. In their first ever meeting, they went toe to toe from the first ball onwards but in the end, despite the second-set collapse, it was the greater consistency of Osaka that won out.

Kvitova plays a return to Osaka. Photo: Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo
Kvitova plays a return to Osaka. Photo: Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo

Having won the first set on a tiebreak, 7-2, Osaka looked home and dry at 5-3 in the second set and 0-40 on the Kvitova serve. But the Czech, the two-time Wimbledon champion, was not ready to go quietly. As Osaka cracked, Kvitova stood strong and reeled off five straight games to level the match and go up 1-0 in the decider.

But a brilliant backhand off her knees seemed to settle Osaka down again and from then on, the momentum changed. Three straight games gave her a 3-1 lead, but Kvitova still fought for everything, holding serve from 0-40 down to stay close at 4-3 down. After the next two games went with serve, Osaka had the chance to serve it out and this time she made no mistake, firing down another big serve to clinch victory. – Guardian service

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